Hawaii health care exchange starts

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Oct 01 2013 11:37:00 PM HST

The Hawaii Health Connector online health insurance marketplace launched on Tuesday, but customers encountered several problems.

HONOLULU -

Hawaii's new health care exchange started up Tuesday.

It was supposed to make shopping for affordable care much easier, but shopping for plans turned out to be impossible which left many residents frustrated over their health care future.

Leon Hamili was up early at his computer, because he can't wait for the state's affordable Health Care program.

"We're just anxious to get on it," said Hamili, a resident of Wahiawa.

Hamili logged onto the island's new health care marketplace, and like many others, ran into roadblocks on the information superhighway.

After spending the morning clicking through the website and filling out forms, Leon repeatedly found himself kicked off the site and unable to complete his application.

"It was frustrating. It turned into a test of patience and perseverance," said Hamili.

After nine attempts and trying for hours, he called to get some help -- only to face more frustration.

"There were no answers. The person at the call center just said to keep trying. That's the only answer they had for me - keep trying? I thought this site was ready to go?" asked Hamili.

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Chief Marketing Officer Rick Budar with Hawaii Health Connector said it is.

"We are real happy to report the connector was up all day," said Budar.

Budar said hundreds had filed applications, and there were no problems to report.

"No one's been kicked off. They can go online and complete their application," said Budar.

Not only did Hamili and others find glitches at the health connector website, they also found something important was missing in their search.

"Where are the plans? I couldn't even find the health care plans," said Hamili.

Actual health care plans are not yet on the website. According to Budar, there is still plenty of time for people to gather information before comparing plans. The new plans will not go into effect until Jan. 1. So when will residents be able to compare and sign up for them?

"The health care plans will soon be up. They are not ready to be put up, but once they are we will notify everyone," said Budar.

Because of a preexisting medical condition, a year-long battle with cancer, Leon is no longer eligible for his former health care plan and has no medical coverage. So waiting to connect with Hawaii Health Connector is even more difficult for the Wahiawa resident.

"We're two months away from the Affordable Care Act, so I will just wait it out. That is why I've been anxiously hoping it would be good to go," said Hamili.

Even though the new state website doesn't have the healthcare plans, residents can still find out about them.

On Tuesday, the Hawaii Medical Service Association opened a new neighborhood center to help residents choose which plan is best for them. Kaiser Permanente posts its care plans and rates on its website.

Meanwhile, at the Hawaii Health Connector website, there is information about tax credits and calculators to see if residents qualify for any subsides to help pay for healthcare.

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